Saturday, May 26, 2012

7) Gruntled and Disgruntled

The wait in Sydney airport, gate 39, for Perth will take two hours longer than expected. There is an aircraft spare part expected to come in from Melbourne. So said the Virgin Airlines announcer, apologetically, but so it goes. So my great Oz friend, Sir Mike, had to leave to pick up his family, and I am left to my own devices in a lounge of disgruntled people, their disappointment quite clear and dismayed at the news. Phones came out. Explanations were made. "Should have flown Qantas," someone said aloud. How very many people in Perth will be affected, I think. So it goes. Or rather, so it does not go, ha! That was the gist of what happened to one of our expectations this morning. We were just congratulating ourselves on the strokes of luck we'd had. The parking attendant's machine was not working at the International air-lot and Mike had to get out of the black Cadillac and negotiate and try with other credit cards, but finally we were let out, sans charge! "That's a thirty dollar saving," said Mike! And then, once he'd transported me to Domestic Terminal Two, we were no sooner gone through security than we came across a $20 store, with very many watches for me to select from, since I left mine behind, and Mike insisted on welcoming me to Oz with my prize. A whole year's worth of guarantee! But a thing or two began changing after that. In search of an outlet plug we parked with my wheelchair against the escalator wall and Mike, sprawled out on the hard tile floor, unpacked an arsenal of electronic thingamajickies in order to secure for me an Internet connection. But nought worked. Even his gift of a music stick to me was not able to be charged. So off we went in search of a more likely spot, an airport lounge! Being a Qantas Emerald Card Member Mike wheels me into the Member's Lounge. It looks virtually empty. Perhaps 60 or more lounge chairs. Perhaps only twelve people. Two attendants, both women, in their thirties. But at hearing that I am flying with Virgin and Mike was just there hoping to pass some time they were adamant, no way! The status card did not seem to impress them. The lounge was for when traveling only, and Mike was not traveling. "Let me speak to your manager," says Mike. But the manager does not wish to come down, speaks only over the phone, and does not relinquish on the basic premise that Mike was not flying that day. Even their calling security to remove us was mentioned, twice, by the unsympathetic girls, very evidently flustered. Mike was clearly not easily going to be dissuaded from having a seat in an almost empty lounge. But eventually, we left. We went and sat in a fast-food court, he with his coffee, me with my orange juice. Yet he enjoyed the waking up of their customer-care, he said. He hoped they were still gabbing about it! And then he told me of the time at a toll booth in Africa how he'd had a whole queue of cars lined up behind him until the toll booth operator finally acquiesced and said, "Five Rand, PLEASE." Ha! Sydney is a strange mixture of very uptight looking people and the extremely casual. In the laid back atmosphere of men in shorts and slip-slops at an airport, and the rather officious sternness of some persons, it strikes me as a country of huge diversity and potential. The cross-cultural mix is as evident here as anywhere I've been in Canada, and the friendliness of some, versus that vacant and preoccupied look of others, is as real as anywhere in the world. We really are one people, one planet, one organism all just needing each other. Wouldn't it be nice then, if Qantas and Virgin just supported each other? As the clerk said it aloud, "Virgin is the enemy!" Ha! Not all is magic in Oz!

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